Lisa Wilkinson uncovers "raw and real" family truth
Lisa Wilkinson admits her upcoming appearance on the SBS genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? Will feature “a lot of ugly cries” as the television star delves deep into her family’s past.
But while some discoveries were deeply heartbreaking, she said she formed a connection to the strong women at her roots that she’ll carry though her own life for years to come.
The opportunity allowed Lisa to learn more about her mother Beryl, who she sadly lost in 2018, making it a painful journey.
And the journey – much to her surprise – took her all the way to India.
“It was an incredibly emotional journey for me, I learnt a lot about the women in my family trees on both sides. And in ways that I wasn’t expecting,” she told news.com.au.
“I also learnt a lot about where the beautiful soul of my father came from,” she said, later adding: “There’s a lot of ugly cries that Australia is going to have to deal with.”View this post on Instagram
Last year I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks on the journey of my lifetime with the brilliant team from the ancestry investigation series Who Do You Think You Are. I simply never could have predicted how deep they would go, or what they would find...and on Tuesday night at 7.30pm on @sbs_australia this whole incredibly raw experience goes to air. What I discovered explained so much for me and took me to places that broke my heart. To be honest I’m feeling very nervous about it all because TV doesn’t get more raw or real than this...but it’s my story with all its missteps and flaws, but one that’s also full of acts of bravery and the unending resilience of my ancestors. And for all the tears I’m so glad I did it....and forever grateful to @channel10au for encouraging me to do it. 7.30pm Tues 19th on @sbs_australia #whodoyouthinkyouare #wdytya #sbs
Speaking before the episode is set to air on Tuesday night, Lisa revealed it was Beryl’s 2018 passing that inspired her to learn more about her mother’s roots, and in the process, uncover the secrets Beryl wasn’t able to.
Having grown up living between orphanages, not knowing who her father was, with a mother whose substance abuse made her unable to care for her daughter, Beryl’s childhood was filled with pain.
But a chance encounter at a family wedding late in life gave her a puzzle piece of her past that Lisa was able to explore further: Her father’s identity.
“My mother only found out very late in life who her real father was,” Lisa explained.
“It had been kept from her, her mother never told her and she found out by complete chance at a family wedding.”
As Lisa explored her mother’s past further, she uncovered a surprising truth.View this post on Instagram
The last place I imagined my Who Do You Think You Are journey would take me was to the hazy heat and dust of Chennai on the south east coast of India. From the kaleidoscope of candy colours in the street markets, to the faded facades of the magnificent old colonial buildings, here’s just a little of what I experienced... For more on how this city wove it’s way into the fabric of my family’s story, tune in to @sbs_australia Tuesday at 7.30pm. #whodoyouthinkyouare #chennai #india #wdytya @canonaustralia
“Mum always presumed that she must have come from poverty,” Lisa said.
“There was a huge surprise for her and me that her story was very different.
“It was only through the early death of her father when she was still a baby that her mother was flung into poverty,” she said, explaining that her grandfather’s backstory – a newspaper journalist and son of a politician – painted a very different picture from the one they’d both imagined.
As she uncovered more of her family’s history, heartbreaking stories of hardship came to the surface of women on both her mother’s and father’s sides.
“Every single one of them has done their very best to try and make the most of the very difficult circumstances that they’d been flung into,” she said.
“That was probably what moved me more than anything, I look at the lives that they led and wonder if I could have possibly been as resilient as those women,” she said.
Lisa said she had “no idea” India would have been a part of her story and said the entire two week process was a surreal experience.
“The way they delve into your history is so full of detail and they keep so much from you.View this post on Instagram
Tonight at 7.30 on @sbs_australia you’ll see the reason why, after shedding a whole bunch of tears following the stories of my ancestors, I’m smiling here. It lies in the journey I took from Sydney to India in search of what happened to my (at the time) 6 year old great great grandmother, Ann Beech. That’s her, at the age of 16, with her great great granddaughter when you swipe through these pics. This beautiful church in Chennai, its gorgeous old gardens, and what it all meant to her, and now me, will stay with me forever. Who Do You Think You Are, episode one of the new series kicks off tonight. #whodoyouthinkyouare
“Every day you have no idea where you’re going. They said we’re going to Sydney airport and pack for a warm climate. They took my passport and dealt with the visa, I was only allowed to be handed my passport until I got to border control and discovered I was going on a flight to Chennai,” she said.
Lisa spoke more about her appearance on the show on Instagram over the weekend.
“What I discovered explained so much for me and took me to places that broke my heart,” she wrote on Sunday.
“To be honest I'm feeling very nervous about it all because TV doesn't get more raw or real than this … but it's my story with all its missteps and flaws, but one that's also full of acts of bravery and the unending resilience of my ancestors.”
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